Israel-based low-cost LiDAR startup Oryx Vision Ltd. has shut down as of Thursday, Oryx’s CEO Ran Wellingstein said in a Friday interview with Calcalist. Oryx was a direct competitor of Israel-based LiDAR startup Innoviz Technologies Ltd., which announced the completion of a $170 million
C funding round in June.
Founded in 2009, Oryx developed a light detection and ranging camera system (LiDAR) for autonomous cars, and has raised $67 million before shutting down its operations. The company’s technology was supposed to allow the conversion of light into an electronic signal and alert the driverless vehicle of oncoming obstacles. Most of Oryx's employees are physicists, optical engineers, and antenna engineers.
Wellingstein, who sold his previous startup Intucell to Cisco in 2013 for $475 million, and Oryx’s founder David Ben Bassat, told the company’s 45 employees that the company is shutting down, despite having approximately $40 million left that could have kept the company going an additional 3-4 years.
The field has changed immensely since the company started its operations, and all the players in the field of LiDAR now understand that autonomous vehicles will take more time to become mainstream than was originally thought, Wellingstein said.
“Currently, the architecture of the autonomous vehicle is simply not converging, so a venture-backed company will not be able to justify the investment that will still be needed," Wellingstein explained.
Faced with the decision to shutter its doors, Wellingstein and Ben Bassat tried to sell Oryx, but were not successful. "There was a lot of deliberation and investors were prepared to keep going, but we saw that LIDAR was becoming a game of giants and as a small company, it would be difficult to continue operating and return investments," Wellingstein said.
Arguably Oryx’s main competitor is Innoviz, which develops low-cost, small-size LiDAR systems designed to enable the mass commercialization of autonomous vehicles. The company has several partnerships with automakers, including with BMW and with Samsung’s connected car and audio technology subsidiary Harman International Industries Inc. Founded in 2016, Innoviz has raised more than $275 million to date.
Wellingstein and Ben Bassat are currently working towards returning the remaining $40 million to investors, Wellingstein said.